Learn about half-life and how it is used in different dating methods, such as uranium-lead dating and radiocarbon dating, in this video lesson. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows.
However, rocks and other objects in nature do not give off such obvious clues about how long they have been around.
This provides a built-in cross-check to more accurately determine the age of the sample.
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By anyone's standards, 50 billion years is a long time.
In fact, this form of dating has been used to date the age of rocks brought back to Earth from the moon.
So, we see there are a number of different methods for dating rocks and other non-living things, but what if our sample is organic in nature?
For example, how do we know that the Iceman, whose frozen body was chipped out of glacial ice in 1991, is 5,300 years old?
So, we rely on radiometric dating to calculate their ages.
Radiometric dating, or radioactive dating as it is sometimes called, is a method used to date rocks and other objects based on the known decay rate of radioactive isotopes.
The uranium-235 to lead-207 decay series is marked by a half-life of 704 million years.
These differing rates of decay help make uranium-lead dating one of the most reliable methods of radiometric dating because they provide two different decay clocks.
So, radiocarbon dating is also useful for determining the age of relics, such the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Shroud of Turin.
With radiocarbon dating, the amount of the radioactive isotope carbon-14 is measured.
So, radiocarbon dating can be used to find the age of things that were once alive, like the Iceman.